Thursday, January 05, 2012

a tale of two Burroughses

Tarzan fascinated me and inspired a lifelong love of Africa, its people, and its wildlife. … When I first read Tarzan, going to Africa became an imperative. And I also desperately wanted to be able to communicate with animals as my hero did. Edgar Rice Burroughs never set foot in Africa (in fact, William S. Burroughs has probably been a more reliable guide to me), and his descriptions bear no relation to what it actually looks like, or what it’s like to live there …
So the book that set Tony Fitzjohn on his way to becoming the main assistant to George Adamson in the camp Adamson set up to return orphaned and failed pet lions to the wild in Kenya was a book that bore “no relation” to reality … There’s something about the magic of the imagination, eh? Africa is more accessible than Barsoom!

There’s something else in the quote I’m going to point out. I read several books at once and it’s not uncommon for me to turn from one book, a book on lions, say, to another set in an entirely different milieu, U.S. indie rock, maybe, and in that same reading period find the different books talk about the same thing. William S. Burroughs, in this case. In my January First post I quote from Bob Mould. He stole a book from the library, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. A Brit who ends up a lion caretaker in Africa and an upstate NYer who ends up a rock star were both into William Burroughs.

source: Born Wild: the extraordinary story of one man’s passion for Africa by Tony Fitzjohn

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